Should transgender individuals be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with? Should they be required to dress a certain way? What sports teams do they try out for? These are just some of the issues schools across the state are dealing with, and unfortunately not all are handling in a way that protects transgender students and lives up to the legal standards of the Dignity for All Students Act.
New York State’s Dignity Act for All Students, passed back in 2010, was designed to protect all students from bullying and harassment. The law explicitly includes discrimination based on actual or perceived gender and gender identity and specifically calls on schools and teachers to protect these students.
Unfortunately, according to a recent study released this summer by the New York Civil Liberties Union, schools are falling short of this legal requirement. “Transgender and gender nonconforming students as young as five face relentless harassment, threats and even violence for trying to access their right to an education,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “And instead of supporting kids, too many schools are magnifying the problem by imposing discriminatory and even illegal policies.”
Part of the problem, according to the report, is that there is no real guidance or support from the State Education Department and so schools have made their own rules and policies. Many of these are insufficient, illegal and deeply damaging to transgender and gender nonconforming youth.
The statistics on transgender bullying are alarming but not too surprising to many people who keep up. Schools are responsible for providing a safe atmosphere and protecting students such as Leelah Alcorn, pictured at right, who committed suicide after being bullied and tormented at school.
Here are some ways schools should support transgender students:
- Take any bullying complaints against transgender students seriously.
- Allow transgender students to dress in the clothes that match their gender identity. Schools have punished trans students for dress code violations and often force them to change into clothes that the school feels are more suitable.
- Provide access to the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
- Allow them to play on the school sports team that corresponds with their gender identity.
- Use the proper name that the student has chosen to be called.
- Use pronouns that match the student’s gender identity.
- Update school records to correspond with the student’s gender identity and chosen name.
If you or someone you care about in the LGBT community is being bullied at school, our lawyers can help
When a child is continually bullied for being transgender and no action taken by the school, there is a problem. Transgender students face a higher rate of depression and suicide, and every effort should be made to ensure these students feel comfortable and safe going to school. If you or your child has experienced bullying, you are not alone and we can help.
Many bullying cases do not turn into lawsuits, but there are steps you can take to help stop the bullying. If the bullying continues and results in injuries—which can be physical or psychological—then you may be able to sue both the families of the bullies and the school district.
Call us for a free consultation. Our lawyers will sit down with you to discuss your case and the best course of action that takes your family’s needs into account.
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